Book Notes: The Art of Being Right - Arthur Schopenhauer

Book Notes: The Art of Being Right - Arthur Schopenhauer Book Notes: The Art of Being Right - Arthur Schopenhauer
The Art of Controversy is a collection of debate formulas to make you always be the right person in a conversation and always be right, even if you are wrong.


Title: The Art of Controversy
Author: Arthur Schopenhauer
Themes: Leadership, Management, Business, Economy, Politics
Year: 1891
Publisher: Self Published
Pages: 136

Without a doubt, Schopenhauer is one of the giants of Western philosophy. 

He represents a turning point from the quest to define the external world as something apart from our experience to a recognition of our experience as the medium of our world. 

Philosophy is a discourse, a conversation spread out over centuries that explores and develops different lines of thought. Schopenhauer embodies the moment in Western philosophy where the snake begins to eat its own tail, where the unreasoning insistence upon an external world is finally examined with due criticism and care. 

If you're looking for a book that will challenge your thinking, sharpen your rhetoric, and help you win any argument, then look no further than "The Art of Controversy" by Arthur Schopenhauer. 

This timeless classic is a must-read for anyone interested in the art of persuasion and the tactics and strategies that are used to win over an audience.

The Art of Controversy (or The Art of Being Right) is a collection of debate formulas written in 1831 by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. 

In this book, the author presents methods of gaining an unfair advantage in a debate and thereby being right even if you are wrong. 

Schopenhauer was a master of rhetoric, and his insights into the nature of argumentation and persuasion are as relevant today as they were when he wrote this book in the 19th century. 

Whether you're a seasoned debater or just starting out, this book will give you the tools you need to navigate even the most difficult arguments and come out on top.

Book Notes: The Art of Being Right - Arthur Schopenhauer

The Art of Controversy is a skillful analysis of the mechanisms of thought and debate, and the stratagems necessary to conquer any intellectual controversy one might encounter.

The narration of the full text is preceded by a summary, as well as an exploration of the life of the author, a synopsis of the work, and an examination of his impact upon history and thought.

My Book Highlights:

"... There are very few who can think, but every man wants to have an opinion; and what remains but to take it ready-made from others, instead of forming opinions for himself..."

"... It is easy to say that we must yield to truth, without any prepossession in favour of our own statements; but we cannot assume that our opponent will do it, and therefore we cannot do it either...."

"... But even when a man has the right on his side, he needs Dialectic in order to defend and maintain it; he must know what the dishonest tricks are, in order to meet them; nay, he must often make use of them himself, so as to beat the enemy with his own weapons...."

"... In itself Dialectic has nothing to do but to show how a man may defend himself against attacks of every kind, and especially against dishonest attacks; and, in the same fashion, how he may attack another man's statement without contradicting himself, or generally without being defeated...."

"... The only certain rule is the one that Aristotle already gave: do not dispute with anyone and everyone, but only with those people you know who are intelligent enough to avoid saying things that are so stupid as to expose themselves to humiliation, who appreciate the truth, and who gladly listen to good reasons, even when the opponent claims them, and who are balanced enough to bear a defeat when the truth is on the other side...."

"... Machiavelli recommends his Prince to make use of every moment that his neighbour is weak, in order to attack him; as otherwise his neighbour may do the same. If honour and fidelity prevailed in the world, it would be a different matter; but as these are qualities not to be expected, a man must not practise them himself, because he will meet with a bad return. It is just the same in a dispute: if I allow that my opponent is right as soon as he seems to be so, it is scarcely probable that he will do the same when the position is reversed; and as he acts wrongly, I am compelled to act wrongly too. It is easy to say that we must yield to truth, without any prepossession in favour of our own statements; but we cannot assume that our opponent will do it, and therefore we cannot do it either...."

It is a book that explores the tactics and strategies of effective persuasion and argumentation. 

The book is divided into 38 chapters, each of which focuses on a specific aspect of argumentation, such as the importance of clear thinking, the use of fallacies, and the strategies for defeating opponents. 

Strategy 1 - The Extension: Carry your opponent's proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it. The more general your opponent's statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it. The more restricted and narrow his or her propositions remain, the easier they are to defend him or her.

Strategy 2 - The Homonymy: Use different meanings of your opponent's words to refute his or her argument.

Strategy 3 - Generalize Your Opponent's Specific Statements: Ignore your opponent's proposition, which was intended to refer to a particular thing. Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it. Attack something different than that which was asserted.

Strategy 4 - Conceal Your Game: Hide your conclusion from your opponent till the end. Mingle your premises here and there in your talk. Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order. By this circuitous route, you conceal your game until you have obtained all the admissions that are necessary to reach your goal.

Strategy 5 - False Propositions: Use your opponent's beliefs against him. If the opponent refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.

Strategy 6 - Postulate What Has to Be Proved: Another plan is to confuse the issue by changing your opponent's words or what he or she seeks to prove.

Strategy 7 - Yield Admissions Through Questions: State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the opponent many questions. By asking many wide-reaching questions at once, you may hide what you want to get admitted. Then you quickly propound the argument resulting from the opponent's admissions.

Strategy 8 - Make Your Opponent Angry: An angry person is less capable of using judgment or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.

Strategy 9 - Questions in Detouring Order: Use your opponent's answers to your questions to reach different or even opposite conclusions.

Strategy 10 - Take Advantage of the Nay-Sayer: If your opponent answers all your questions negatively and refuses to grant any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite of your premises. This may confuse the opponent as to which point you actually seek them to concede.

Strategy 11 - Generalize Admissions of Specific Cases: If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises, refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion. Later, introduce your conclusion as a settled and admitted fact. Your opponent may come to believe that your conclusion was admitted.

Strategy 12 - Choose Metaphors Favourable to Your Proposition: If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable to your proposition.

Strategy 13 - Agree to Reject the Counter-Proposition: To make your opponent accept a proposition, you must give him or her an opposite, counter-proposition as well. If the contrast is glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being paradoxical.

Strategy 14 - Claim Victory Despite Defeat: Try to bluff your opponent. If he or she has answered several of your questions without the answers turning out in favor of your conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does not follow. If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily succeed.

Strategy 15 - Use Seemingly Absurd Propositions: If you wish to advance a proposition that is difficult to prove, put it aside for the moment. Instead, submit for your opponent's acceptance or rejection of some true proposition, as though you wished to draw your proof from it. Should the opponent reject it because he or she suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by showing how absurd the opponent is to reject a true proposition. Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on your own for the moment. You can either try to prove your original proposition or maintain that your original proposition is proved by what the opponent accepted. For this, an extreme degree of impudence is required.

Strategy 16 - Arguments Ad Hominem: When your opponent puts forth a proposition, find it inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions, or lack of action.

Strategy 17 - Defense Through Subtle Distinction: If your opponent presses you with counterproof, you will often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction. Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense for your opponent's idea.

Strategy 18 - Interrupt, Break, or Divert the Dispute: If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end in your defeat, you must not allow him or her to carry it to its conclusion. Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or lead the opponent to a different subject.

Strategy 19 - Generalize the Matter, Then Argue Against it: Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any objection to some definite point in his or her argument, and you have nothing much to say, try to make the argument less specific.

Strategy 20 - Draw Conclusions Yourself: If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises, do not ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion. Rather draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.

Strategy 21 - Meet Him With a Counter-Argument as Bad as His: When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial, refute it by setting forth its superficial character. But it is better to meet the opponent with a counterargument that is just as superficial, and so dispose of him or her. For it is with a victory that you are concerned, and not with truth.

Strategy 22 - Petitio principii: If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in dispute will immediately follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.

Strategy 23 - Make Him Exaggerate His Statement: Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating his or her statements. By contracting your opponent you may drive him or her into extending the statement beyond its natural limit. When you then contradict the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the original statement your opponent tries to extend your own statement further than you intended, redefining your statement's limits.

Strategy 24 - State a False Syllogism: This trick consists in stating a false syllogism. Your opponent makes a proposition and by false inference and distortion of his or her ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not intended and that appear absurd. It then appears the opponent's proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies, and so appears to be indirectly refuted.

Strategy 25 - Find One Instance to the Contrary: If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the contrary. Only one valid contradiction is needed to overthrow the opponent's proposition.

Strategy 26 - Turn the Tables: A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent's arguments against him or herself.

Strategy 27 - Anger Indicates a Weak Point: Should your opponent surprise you by becoming particularly angry at an argument, you must urge it with all the more zeal. Not only will this make the opponent angry, but it may also be presumed that you put your finger on the weak side of his or her case and that the opponent is more open to attack on this point than you expected.

Strategy 28 - Persuade the Audience, Not the Opponent: This trick is chiefly practicable in a dispute if there is an audience who is not an expert on the subject. You make an invalid objection to your opponent who seems to be defeated in the eyes of the audience. This strategy is particularly effective if your objection makes the opponent look ridiculous or if the audience laughs. If the opponent must make a long, complicated explanation to correct you, the audience will not be disposed to listen.

Strategy 29 - Diversion: If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a diversion that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of something else, as though it had bearing on the matter is disposed of. This may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on the matter.

Strategy 30 - Appeal to Authority Rather Than Reason: Make an appeal to authority rather than reason. If your opponent respects an authority or an expert, quote that authority to further your case. If needed, quote what the authority said in some other sense or circumstance. Authorities that your opponent fails to understand are those that he or she generally admires the most. You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote something that you have invented entirely yourself.

Strategy 31 - This Is Beyond Me: If you know that you have no reply to an argument that your opponent advances, you may, by a fine stroke of irony, declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.

Strategy 32 - Put His Thesis into Some Odious Category: A quick way of getting rid of an opponent's assertion, or throwing suspicion on it, is by putting it into some odious category.

Strategy 33 - It Applies in Theory, but Not in Practice: You admit your opponent's premises but deny the conclusion.

Strategy 34 - Don't Let Him Off the Hook: When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you no direct answer, evades it with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is a sure sign you have touched a weak spot, sometimes without knowing it. You have as it were, reduced the opponent to silence. You must, therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent evade it, even when you do not know where the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.

Strategy 35 - Will Is More Effective Than Insight: This trick makes all unnecessary if it works. Instead of working on an opponent's intellect, work on his or her motive. If you succeed in making your opponent's opinion, should it prove true, seem distinctly to his or her own interest, the opponent will drop it like a hot potato.

Strategy 36 - Bewilder Your opponent with Mere Bombast: You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast. If the opponent is weak or does not wish to appear as if he or she has no idea what you are talking about, you can easily impose upon him or her some argument that sounds very deep or learned, or that sounds indisputable.

Strategy 37 - A Faulty Proof Refutes His Whole Position: Should your opponent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a faulty proof, you can easily refute it and then claim that you have refuted the whole position. This is the way in which bad advocates lose a good case. If no accurate proof occurs to the opponent or the bystanders, you have won the day.

Strategy 38 - Become Personal, Insulting, Rude: A last trick is to become personal, insulting, and rude as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand. In becoming personal you leave the subject altogether and turn your attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. This is a very popular trick because everyone is able to carry it into effect.

Schopenhauer draws on examples from history and literature to illustrate his points and offers practical advice for anyone looking to improve their debating skills.

One of the key themes of the book is the importance of understanding the psychology of your opponent and the audience. 

Schopenhauer stresses the importance of knowing your opponent's weaknesses and using them to your advantage, while also being aware of the audience's biases and prejudices.

Overall, "The Art of Controversy" is a must-read for anyone interested in the art of persuasion and debate. 

Schopenhauer's insights into the nature of argumentation are as relevant today as they were when he wrote the book in the 19th century, and his practical advice is sure to help anyone looking to improve their debating skills.

Should you be careful with this book?

While "The Art of Controversy" by Arthur Schopenhauer is a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their debating skills, it is important to approach the book with caution and keep a few things in mind.

Firstly, Schopenhauer's tactics and strategies for effective persuasion and argumentation are not always ethical or morally sound. 

Some of the techniques he recommends, such as using fallacies or exploiting your opponent's weaknesses, may be considered manipulative or dishonest. It is important to use these tactics ethically and responsibly and to avoid using them to manipulate or deceive others.

Secondly, it is important to remember that not all arguments can or should be won. Sometimes it is more important to listen to other perspectives and understand different points of view, rather than simply trying to win the argument at all costs. 

It is important to be respectful and considerate of others during debates and discussions and to avoid personal attacks or ad hominem arguments.

Finally, it is important to remember that "The Art of Controversy" was written in the 19th century, and some of the language and examples used in the book may be outdated or offensive to modern readers. 

It is important to approach the book with an open mind and a critical eye and to consider the context in which it was written.

In summary, while "The Art of Controversy" can be a valuable resource for improving your debating skills, it is important to use the tactics and strategies it recommends ethically and responsibly, to be respectful and considerate of others, and to approach the book with a critical eye.

But this book can be a helpful resource for identifying when someone is using certain tactics or fallacies during an argument or debate, including politicians.

For example, Schopenhauer discusses several fallacies that can be used to manipulate or deceive an audience, such as the fallacy of equivocation (using ambiguous language to mislead others) or the fallacy of ad hominem (attacking the person making the argument instead of addressing the argument itself). 

By understanding these fallacies, you can recognize when they are being used and be better equipped to respond.

Additionally, Schopenhauer emphasizes the importance of understanding the psychology of your opponent and audience, including their beliefs, values, and biases. 

This can be useful for understanding the tactics that politicians or other public figures may use to appeal to their audience and gain support, such as playing on people's fears or using emotional language to create a sense of urgency.

By being familiar with the tactics and fallacies outlined in "The Art of Controversy," you can better identify when they are being used in political or other debates, and be better equipped to respond in a clear, logical, and effective way. 

This can help you to become a more informed and discerning citizen, and to make more informed decisions based on sound reasoning and evidence.

In conclusion, "The Art of Controversy" by Arthur Schopenhauer is a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their debating skills and better understand the nature of argumentation. 

With its 38 chapters covering a wide range of topics related to argumentation and persuasion, the book provides practical advice and insights that are as relevant today as they were when Schopenhauer wrote it in the 19th century.

Whether you're a seasoned debater or just starting out, "The Art of Controversy" is sure to help you develop your rhetorical skills and navigate even the most difficult arguments. 

By understanding the principles of effective persuasion and the psychology of your opponents and audience, you can become a more effective communicator and a more successful debater.

So if you're looking to take your debating skills to the next level, be sure to pick up a copy of "The Art of Controversy" and start exploring the fascinating world of argumentation and debate.

Arthur Schopenhauer traveled in childhood throughout Europe and lived for a time in Goethe's Weimar, where his mother had established a salon that attracted many of Europe's leading intellectuals. Schopenhauer's philosophy exercised considerable influence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, not only among academic philosophers but even more among artists and literati. This may be in part because, unlike his German idealist contemporaries, Schopenhauer is a lucid and even witty writer, whose style consciously owes more to Hume than to Kant. Schopenhauer's main influence on twentieth-century philosophy, however, was mediated by Nietzsche, whose theory of the will to power added a poignant twist by committing itself to the affirmation of the will while still conceiving it in essentially the same way---insatiable, painful, predatory, deceptive, and subversive of rational thought---which it had been in Schopenhauer's metaphysical pessimism.

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